About the only bible verse I can rattle off is Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Only reason I know it is because it was on my letter from Josie. I was born and raised Catholic. Not strict Catholic, but we attended mass on a regular basis, I completed my sacraments through confirmation and we prayed before meals and bedtime. My daughter knew the Lord’s prayer and the Hail Mary by the age of 4. These were all things I knew and learned, but nothing I was ever able to really connect with. These were motions that I went through, because that was the ‘right’ thing to do, but I never had a true desire or connection to it. Although on occassion, I do enjoy a good sermon,I didn’t feel ‘cleansed or glorified per se after leaving mass and I hated that I didn’t. I was secretly jealous that my grandma, mom and sister did, I hated that my dad could rattle off biblical stories and versus. I hated that I had no interest in it and felt bad I didn’t. After I had my daughter, I found myself caught in that same cycle, feeling as though she might be damned if she wasn’t baptized or enrolled in religion classes. Finding it necessary that we make as many masses as possible and that she grow up knowing how to ‘properly’ act in the church. I remember gloating about being Catholic when I was younger, honestly, I think for no other reason then feeling as if I were superior to others because of it. Because it is the largest religion, the highest money making religious institution and Lord knows we must have the most morals! 😉 (totally kidding)
Both of my parents came from strong faith based families, whether Lutheran or Catholic, it didn’t matter, they both were raised with the importance of having it in their lives. They didn’t sit in the front row for show and I don’t remember talk of one religion downing another or thinking another to be superior -I just remember it being a base to their households and still is. From my perspective, on my mom’s side, it wasn’t about the religion as much as it was the faith. The connection between them and God, and yes, the importance of the institution to practice that. It was something that was built from having nothing else to stand on, from enduring times when the weight of the world seemed to collapse on their shoulders. From my grandparents watching their 3 year old son go through the Ramsey Burn Unit due to 80% of his body being burned, to losing their home and farm, to a house fire, to struggles with addiction, to 2 bouts of breast cancer and a few other shenanigans in between 😉 To my parents having me at the age of 16, to enduring a strenuous marriage, to be being dirt broke to losing their daughter, to depression to dealing with a run in with Melanoma – I think it’s fair to say between them, they’ve been through some shit! And never waivering – I got the same answer every time from them both – “our faith is what got us through, without it, we wouldn’t have made it.” And no matter how many times I heard that – I would still think – but HOW?!
Looking back, I think the real game changer for me in regards to the church setting, was after she died. I don’t know if it was as much of a hatred towards God or the church, but more of an absent feeling and even more so – was the replaying of the funeral over and over. Every time I walked down that aisle for communion, and I had all I could do not to lose it. The only thing I seen was a packed church while we followed the casket down. But while I lost interest in the church, I was immediately compelled towards a different form of faith – one that I’ve been drawn too ever since. I began reading so many books in regards to life after death and what happens to the soul once it leaves this ‘shell’. She died in my parents home, the kitchen to be exact. For many people, losing someone in the home is ‘creepy’, but for us it was a comfort, feeling as if she were still present and there with us. I began relying on that comfort, constantly talking to her and asking for guidance and support and trying to be aware of the signs she put in front of me. And she more then delivered them! From my ex being freaked out because he overheard our daughter saying “good night Josie” at the age of 3, to her walking into my parents house and saying “hi Josie!” while looking over my mom’s shoulder, to her saying “I’m swinging up to heaven with Josie” to reading her a book and watching the door start swaying just to have my ex run around trying to figure out why it’s happening or if there was a window open while I sat and smiled and said “thanks Jos.” These were comforting, not creepy, these were and still are, vital to us, that wave of relief hearing her name or the song Santa Monica. I’d say to some degree, it almost became a crutch – always relying on her, always asking for help, thanking her for the cop not pulling me over 😉 But, this was the start of this faith, which had less to do with Sunday sermons and memorized prayers and more to do with me and a direct relationship with God. Learning that they’ve only left the physical plane, but it doesn’t mean they don’t play vital roles in our evolution.
Learning that I don’t have to sit in an institution every week to feel as though I’m being judged, shunned or approved of by others as to whether I’ll see the Pearly Gates when my time comes. That God is in every single living thing that surrounds us, and maybe if we paid more attention to the sunrises and sunsets, the green grass, snow covered trees (I know, I have a tough time with that one sometimes too – dang winter ha 😉 or sitting and playing a game or coloring with my daughter, we’d see more of him. Maybe instead of bitching about how we’re entitled because we hold jobs and people are trash because they’re on welfare, instead of judging on account of race or the home in which they live, instead of debating over politics and religion and which one is better and why – maybe we’d be putting more ‘God’ in our lives in a more useful way – each day, and not just for an hour a week. Maybe if we did more “I’m grateful for…” and less blaming the next guy, maybe if we paid less attention to social media and more to the ones in front of us, or read more Upworthy articles and watched less CNN or the local news, maybe if we smiled or complimented strangers more instead of instantly pointing out their outfit or weight gain or loss – then maybe we’d be a little more in alignment with that sermon? Am I saying I’m perfect in all these areas – ummm, NO – I’m still a work in progress too! But I feel like I’ve found a faith that is more concrete then I’ve ever had before, based on beliefs such as these. To realize we’re all souls just having a physical experience, this is just our ‘shell’ for awhile, but in the grand scheme of things we/they are still here to help guide us. That we’re meant to keep moving forward, always bettering ourselves and seeing things in a larger light.
I’m starting to see that we’re all bits and pieces of this Universe and each other and I don’t need a priest to absolve my sins, nor to bless me. I remember my cousin telling me after seeing the Dalai Lama, that people in the audience asked him to bless them and he said no, they didn’t need him, nor anyone else to do that for them. We’re all equal, we’re all of something bigger and higher, we don’t need someone at the pulpit to make us ‘right’ or ‘better’ or ‘saved’ – we’re here to save ourselves – do we need God to do it? Yes – but since Josie has left, I’ve found a faith I didn’t know I had – one stronger then I could’ve imagined, and although unorthadox to many, it’s one that I’m finally able to connect and be comfortable with. So – I guess although some may beg to differ, (which isn’t the point of this entry) I feel like I’ve had more God in my life, especially in the past year since learning more about it then I’ve implemented before, and I feel like I’m becoming a happier person because of it! 🙂
Here’s a perfect example of a sign – my mom’s friend gets a hand written letter in the mail from a jahovah witness church in Spokane WA – signed Josie. A few days prior my mom and I had been in a bit of a debate regarding religion/the church etc. And if where my path was leading me was in my best interest. She has spoken loud and clear in the past year every time I’ve went through these periods of self doubt. This is the reassurance I’ve become to love and appreciate. They truly do work in mysterious ways! 🙂
Continue reading The Aftermath
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